Number of long-term empty buildings in Leeds plummets by nearly a third in 10 years

A town planning expert has hailed work done in Leeds to bring empty buildings across the city back into use.

Leeds has seen a dramatic reduction in empty properties across the city.

If follows recent statistics being released by Leeds City Council, which show the number of long-term empty properties have reduced by almost a third over the past decade.

The numbers, published to the Datamill North website, show the number of privately-owned properties that have been unoccupied for more than six months has reduced from a high of 9,082 in April 2010, to 6,365 in April 2019.

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The area with the highest number of empty properties remains the old City and Hunslet ward, which includes Leeds city centre. However, this has still seen a huge reduction in long-term empties since 2010, by more than 65 per cent.

Dr Quintin Bradley is a senior lecturer in town planning at Leeds Beckett University. He believes that, although the figures refer to private properties not owned by the council, the authority has been making great strides in bringing them back into use over the years.

“Leeds is one of the few cities to work on a case-by-case basis to getting privately owned homes back into use,” he said. “One of the things you find is that, when a house’s owner dies, their relatives often have an emotional attachment to the home, and find it difficult to get rid of.

“This means that councils have to adopt social work methods. You really need to work individually with an owner on a property – one size does not fit all.

“Leeds is particularly good – they realised a long time ago that it was a problem area that required creative thinking.”

He suggested that the huge decrease of empty properties in and around the city centre could also be put down to the number of empty terraced houses that have been demolished since 2010.

He added: “It is important to get people back into an area with lots of empty properties because empty properties have an affect on a neighbourhood. Empty properties often attract crime and vandalism.

“It’s something known as ‘broken windows syndrome’. If nobody is caring for an area, people are encouraged to behave badly there.”

Coun Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, said: “We have made enormous progress in bringing empty homes both in our own council stock and in the private sector back into use in the city. We have seen a reduction of over 3,500 private empty homes over the past few years. In both the public and private sector the numbers of empty homes continue to be low.

“To place the number of empty homes in perspective, there are over 330,000 homes in Leeds, so empty homes represent less than two per cent of the housing stock. Given the regular turnover that we see in the city’s housing stock, we would not expect to see the overall number of empty homes reduce significantly from where they currently are now.

“In terms of specifically private sector stock not in use, we do recognise that there has been an increase this year.

“There are natural fluctuations that we see in the sector but we do not believe that this an indication of a long-term trend. We are not complacent, however, about the efforts required to keep numbers low.

“With partners, we will be continuing to explore every option and use every tool available to us to ensure that as many empty properties, including those in the private sector, can be brought back into use as soon as possible.”